Understanding Hearing Loss and Tinnitus.

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According to some studies one in eight Americans have some degree of hearing loss.  Approximately 18% of those aged 45- 65 Approximately 30% of those aged 65-75 and about 47% of those 75 or older.

Signs of Hearing Loss:  Hearing loss can be subtle and is usually gradual.  This can mean that a person does not truly appreciate the extent of how much they are missing in terms of speech and communication.  If you have to ask to have things repeated or you or someone else notices that you are making the TV louder can all be signs of hearing loss.  Additional signs of hearing loss can be that you have trouble hearing well in group situations or when there is noise in the background.  You may also notice that you are pretending to hear things when you are not because it is easier than constantly asking to have things repeated.  At this point, it would benefit you to get a hearing test and obtain an objective appraisal of what is really happening.

Types of Hearing loss: There are three basic types of hearing loss.  The most common hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss, which is generally known as nerve loss and this can have many causes.  Aging is obviously one of them along with noise exposure.  Additionally, there are some people who have a hearing loss due to inherited factors.  Sometimes medicines can play a role in bringing on hearing loss.

Conductive loss:  This is a problem with the actual transmission of soundwaves through the ear canal to the eardrum and then to the three smallest bones in the body that help in the transmission of sound to the nerve.  Other things that can cause this type of loss is an excessive amount of ear wax that can build up in the ear canal.  This can be easily seen by the specialist when an otoscope is used to look in the ear.  If this is the cause, then when the wax is removed hearing is restored.  In other cases the conductive loss is permanent if there is damage that cannot be repaired.

Mixed Hearing Loss:  Is a combination of the sensorineural(nerve) loss and conductive loss.

If you are having any of the hearing problems described it is important to get your hearing tested  If it is determned you have a hearing loss and hearing aids will help.  There are all types of hearing aids and you can find one that will fit in with your budgetary needs.

Tinnitus:  Tinnitus is a condiditon in which a person hears a noise but there is no external sound causing this.  Some studies have determined that 15% of people over the age of 50 have tinnitus.  Many people with this condition also have hearing loss.   Sometimes when a person has a hearing loss with tinnitus, hearing aids help them hear other things and the tinnitus seems less noticeable.  I have tinnitus and have normal hearing. I notice the tinnitus less when there are other sounds around me than when it is quiet.  The implication here is that if tinnitus is accompanied by a hearing loss, wearing a hearing aid or aids may make you notice the tinnitus less because you will also hear other sounds.  These other sounds can drown out or mask the tinnitus.  Many people who have tinnitus along with a hearing loss have told me that they notice the tinnitus less once they started wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Aids can help you:    I always said that no one ever loves having to wear hearing aids but they help with so many aspects of life.  They can help you live a more enriched life because communicaton with others is so important.  Hearing better can help you and others around you from becoming frustrated because of difficulty in communicating.  Use of a telephone, watching television, listening to radio or music, and movies enrich life so much that if you have hearing loss, wearing hearng aids can be described as essential to enjoying life.  I believe that hearing aids can even improve mental health and disposition because so many people who have cognitive disorders like dementia or Alzheimer's also have hearing loss.   I believe that a hearing evaluation should always be part of any cognitive assessment.